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The Agricultural Trade Group has advised the Federal Government  to fine-tune the implementation of the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) under its Agricultural Transformation Agenda.
Members of the group told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Lagos that the review was necessary because commercial farmers were not benefiting from the scheme.
Mr Tunji Olukoya, the Chairman of the group, however, lauded the scheme, saying it succeeded in eliminating “the middlemen syndrome” in the procurement of fertiliser.
“The scheme must be commended. We no longer have a farmer going through middlemen before he can buy fertiliser. The cost of fertiliser is relatively cheap now as the farmer only pays 50 per cent of the cost while the Federal and State Governments pays 25 per cent each.”

He identified the challenges of the scheme to include poor implementation and the need take care of commercial farmers.
“This scheme has only benefited small scale farmers, the commercial farmers have not really benefited because only one bag of fertiliser is given to a farmer at a time.
“So what happens to a big time farmer who needs over 20 bags at a time? So those are the challenges or areas that the Ministry of Agriculture should look into.’’

Mr Aderemi Giwa, the Chairman of the Agriculture and Non-oil Group in the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, identified other areas through which farmers could be assisted.
He told NAN that funding should be given priority apart from ease of access to fertiliser.
“There is no way you want to give funds to farmers that it’s going to be a short term. Farmers need a long term loan that spread between six to ten years and the moratorium of let say between nine to 12 months.
But by the time you now say, it’s intervention fund and after four years you want to get the money back, in agriculture it’s not possible and that’s why you see most of these things is a failed project.

“But if they make it revolve, (such) that if one A and B and C have access to it and by the time they do their repayments, C and D gets, then you are always empowering almost five or six, a lot of people as against two or three that actually access it.

“And from that, they increase their employment ratio, they increase production ratio and they increase the GDP of the whole nation.

“But you give a loan and you are giving a moratorium of six month; how can somebody that want to grow cassava, plough it, do everything and you say by six months he has to start paying, there is no way he wants to get that.

“Where do the funds start coming from? So those are the areas the Federal Government and the ministry of agriculture have to look at.”
The chairman also identified infrastructure as a major problem militating against agriculture, urging that government should rehabilitate rural roads to enhance the farmers.
“They have to do the roads. That’s the enhancement for the farmers, because it is when a farmer is able to transport his farm products to the town or to the city and from there he is able to sell his farm products.
“By that way you are enhancing his activities, but if no roads, no power supply, no water, no irrigation, those are the enhancements that the government has to do to enhance farming sector.”

In a separate interview with NAN, Mr Oyekoya Wale, the Managing Director of the Bama Farms, said that the scheme had not encouraged food security.
“I cannot tell you that farmers have benefited from this scheme, because of inconsistencies in government policies on assistance to farmers. Farmers have now reduced their production because of high cost of inputs.’’

Mr Bode Abayomi, a maize farmer in Ayobo, told NAN that he had not registered for the scheme in Agege.
“I plan to do that soon because I am waiting to hear from other farmers if they have benefited from it before I will go. Although I have not heard of any, I will still register.”

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